Across the nation, our country is being sold piecemeal from under the noses of its citizens. This phenomenon needs to be broken down for those of us who may be too slow to understand what’s happening. This sale makes no economic sense to the country and its inhabitants, including plants and animals (not in the long run anyway). It makes neither political good sense, nor does it make sense in terms of social cohesion.
So why do we do it?
The cases are too many to tabulate, even in a spreadsheet, but let’s work with a few and recent examples.
Vineta Beach, Swakopmund: The municipality of Swakopmund has ridden roughshod over a few of its vocal residents and sold off a substantial part of the beach for a cement and bricks waterfront project to a South African outfit called Safari Investments.
A huge portion of Swakopmund’s popular beach has been closed off to the public. Bulldozers have moved in, piling heaps of sand, rocks and concrete bunkers to keep the Atlantic Ocean away. The sea is fighting this push-back, but the construction of the shopping centre and luxury apartments continues without regard to the ocean or the people.
The Swakopmund municipality and Safari Investment are accused of ignoring decades-old regulations in the name of this project with the officials, especially town CEO Eckart Demasius, arrogantly dismissing the residents who raise technicalities as people who don’t realise what the waterfront “development” will bring to this beautiful holiday destination.
What the ‘noisy’ residents are too afraid to mention aloud is that the serenity, the open space, the play area, the angling spots of Vineta will be lost to them and tourists forever. They are afraid of being accused of ‘uppityness’ and not caring about the poor who will be employed and the money that will be ‘injected’ into Swakopmund.
Well the reality is that “investors” do not pump money into a place for charity. Their sole aim is to extract wealth. And the shopping mall business model is probably one of the worst investments any country can get into. It simply siphons money from a place, encourages consumerism and can entrench a culture of laziness for people who “have arrived”. Namibia needs the opposite.
Cement and concrete shopping malls, often ugly on the eye, diminish the quality of life: good quality of life is not in the buzz of shopping but the serenity of one’s soul. In the case of Vineta, residents of the Mondesa township who used to go there for relaxation on the beach or for angling (an age-old livelihood for many families) now have to find somewhere further and at a higher cost to go to.
Worst, these shopping malls across the country (the shops and often the buildings) belong to South Africans and other foreigners. The owners often actually use our money (GIPF, Old Mutual or Sanlam) to put up their businesses. In short, the country’s wealth keeps leaving Namibia to enrich other nations.
The end results are the same with other examples: It is not uncommon to hear our fellow ‘get-rich-quick and ‘chow now’ citizens boast about selling off EPLs (exclusive prospecting licences) for millions of dollars. By now, Namibia is so thoroughly explored for minerals that we should not be surprised if we have no natural resources left to exploit in less than 100 years.
What the EPL millionaires and the Ministry of Mines and Energy are turning a blind eye to is that the sale of those licences to foreigners is equal to mortgaging Namibia’s future. The expectation for anyone exploring is that they will have mining or other rights to start operations and by then Namibians will have little say because most of the rights would have been sold off.
Ditto fishing rights and quotas, which the state awards to a few who then sell them to outsiders in search of a quick buck. The trend is the same with farmland, town lands and even communal land where Namibians use state power, money and other resources to get the land but are quick to put it up for sale to their “foreign investor friends”.
Norway and other countries have sovereign funds and other legal instruments to safeguard their natural wealth for the younger and future generations. They deliberately keep the exploration and exploitation of minerals to a bare minimum.
Our avaricious elite is foolhardy if they think their actions are in the best interest of the country. They, in fact, do not care about future generations. The future is now and we can’t afford the conspicuous consumption, aka bling-bling, to go on.